Controlling complexity and dynamics in the Oosterweelverbinding project

With a new Schelde tunnel and tunnels under the Albert canal, the Oosterweelverbinding (Oosterweel connection) will complete the Antwerp ring road (R1). On behalf of the government of Flanders, Beheersmaatschappij Antwerpen Mobiel NV (BAM NV) is managing the preparations for and design and execution of this project. It is a major challenge, and not just because of the required dovetailing with the existing infrastructure and other projects. The changes forced by stakeholders, ranging from politicians to residents, are also contributing to a very dynamic situation. To keep the effects of changes on the end result clear at all times, all requirements and the process of their establishment must be recorded in an unambiguous and traceable manner. By using Relatics to manage its information, BAM NV can meticulously monitor and evaluate every phase of the project, from design to execution to maintenance.

Improving mobility, liveability and traffic safety in Antwerp

The Oosterweelverbinding project, part of the Master Plan 2020, has a long history. The original mobility plan, aimed at improving mobility, liveability and traffic safety in Antwerp, was drafted in 1997, but has undergone many changes in many places over the years. A referendum in 2009, for example, meant that the planned Lange Wapper bridge was replaced by stacked tunnels under the Albert canal. Following a comprehensive accord in early 2017, the project picked up speed. At present, the permits for the project on the left bank have been submitted and the tendering process is fully underway. The final designs for the Schelde tunnel and the Oosterweelverbinding on the right bank are still being evaluated with an eye to their environmental effects, after which the design phase can be concluded. According to the schedule, the Oosterweel works on the left bank and in Zwijndrecht can commence towards the end of 2017, with activities on the right bank of the Schelde river starting in the course of 2019.

Clearly mapping the effects of changes

Christophe Goffi is SE Manager at BAM NV. “As the client in charge of the Oosterweelverbinding, we manage and monitor the progress of the project. The objective is to accurately translate the customer’s requirements into contract documents and the Schedule of Requirements. To that end, we are assisted by the engineering offices Sweco and Witteveen+Bos.” Determining and recording the requirements is essential for this task. “It is only if the requirements are clear to all involved parties that we can ensure the desired result. The Oosterweelverbinding is being built in a complex urban environment, meaning that a variety of actors are putting forward diverse changes to the design we have made. In this dynamic environment, it is important for information regarding the requirements to be managed effectively and to be available for quick consultation.”

Storing information in a structured manner saves time

Having a clear overview of the underlying requirements and the effects of changes requires a logical connection between requirements, interactions and risks. As Goffi explains: “In Relatics, we can accurately map out the connections between earlier choices and the effects of specific requests or changes by stakeholders. By always relating customer requirements to contract document requirements and the points where they intersect, we can keep a sharp eye on the complexity and risks. As the client, we are the spider at the heart of the web, as it were, with administrators and stakeholders on one side, and the engineering firms and contractors on the other, and it is our task to answer all questions fully and quickly. Relatics allows us to store all information and relationships in a structured manner, so that we can always respond rapidly. That saves everyone a lot of time.”

Project progress is always clear

The questions submitted to BAM NV are very diverse, Goffi says. “They range from requests from the municipality to alter the width of a road to changes resulting from a permit application process. And larger changes, too. For instance, there was the addition of 200 metres of canopy to the Oosterweelverbinding in the vicinity of the DAM district. Such choices affect the existing requirements, or create new ones. When that happens, it is up to us to make those effects clear as quickly as we can, and to share them with the relevant stakeholders once the decision has been made. We want to have a clear picture of the consequences of such changes in advance.”

Using Relatics is a learning process

At the start of the project, BAM NV had no experience with Relatics. “We are responsible for the project management,” Goffi explains. “In practice, that means keeping an eye on whether the requirements, risks, points of intersection, changes and results match, and whether the project has been realised in a systematic manner. That way, we ensure that the choices and processes can always be consulted and have been recorded in a verifiable way. For example, we monitor how the engineering firms specify the requirements and go from customer requirement to contract document requirement. We certainly don’t scrutinise every single activity, the engineering firms have the freedom to make their own choices and deliberations. On the other hand, we do of course have agreements about reporting and the sharing of information. We can only carry out our task effectively on the basis of clear and up-to-date information. We need that in order to be able to closely monitor and check the progress and thereby, ultimately, realise the desired final project. In doing so, using Relatics was a learning process.”

Robust and traceable management of project information

For the Oosterweelverbinding project, BAM NV uses its own, isolated Relatics environment – a deliberate choice. “Not all the information on the risks we have identified or financial data are relevant for third parties. We set up this environment jointly with Relatics, and with their support we managed to make the large number of information streams manageable and controllable. They clearly have a good understanding of the processes within larger complex processes. And they are not afraid to challenge us to argue our choices well. The result is a user-friendly, transparent environment for the robust and traceable management of all relevant project information.”

Demonstrably in control

BAM NV is considering using Relatics for the contract management following the awarding and start of the work as well. Goffi: “In order to keep a handle on the project and the final result, it is of crucial importance to always be able to validate whether the execution is in accordance with the requirements. We want to be able to closely follow and monitor the entire life cycle of the project, from design and execution to management. When deviations occur, it is important to assess them quickly and to gauge any effects they might have on other components.” Relatics makes this process easier. “It is a very functional tool that allows us to show that we are meeting requirements and are in control.” And that remains important once the execution phase is complete. “When we hand over project components to the maintenance party, we could optionally use Relatics to easily transfer all relevant data, including decision-making and underlying requirements,” Goffi says. “These data will ultimately also serve as the foundation for the accountability that contractors have towards us and that we, in turn, have towards the Flemish authority.”

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